Brandon Pierce’s first season with Lee Pulliam Performance in 2019 was one of mountain highs and cellar lows but the young driver is poised for his second season with the team as they chase the CARS Tour championship again in 2020.
Pierce couldn’t have launched his effort with Pulliam any better in 2019 after winning the CARS Tour season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park. It was Pierce’s first victory in the CARS Tour and his second-ever Late Model Stock Car triumph after winning previously at South Boston Speedway while driving for Nelson Motorsports. The combination of Pierce and Pulliam had a strong start but over the next few months, the team would be tested.
Pierce would go on to have hit or miss success during the 2019 season either finishing in the top five or 14th or worse in the next six races. He wouldn’t win another race all season and his biggest challenge came during a CARS Tour stop at Langley Speedway when a mistake in practice would leave him with a destroyed car. He would rent another car for the race and would manage a 14th place finish but his chances at a CARS Tour title were officially gone.
Pierce would only finish in the top five once more during the season at the next event at Dominion and would finish the season frustratingly with a 16th place effort at his former home track, South Boston Speedway. His best finish of the season outside of the CARS Tour would come at South Boston Speedway during the Thunder Road Harley-Davidson 200 in June with a sixth-place finish.
From there, his chances at winning the Virginia Triple Crown went downhill with a 20th place effort at Langley Speedway in July and missing the ValleyStar Credit Union 300 in October, just one year after a career-high second-place finish at Martinsville Speedway.
With all of that behind him, Pierce knows that in 2020 he’ll have to keep the bad luck at bay if he hopes to win the CARS Tour championship and compete for wins all season.
“2019 was a rollercoaster year with great runs and good speed pretty much every week,” Pierce told RACE22. “We just fell victim to wrecks that weren’t our fault with the exception of Langley for the CARS Tour race. That wreck was all on me. Obviously we started off the year great with the win at Southern National and was in a position to win at Hickory the next race when the alternator died.
We had a good run at Orange County and then it started to go up and down from there. For my first year with Lee, it was a success but we know we could have accomplished a lot more without all the bad luck. Unfortunately, that’s just how the cards fall sometimes.”
Pierce is hoping that the second time around with Lee Pulliam Performance will be a lot smoother.
“I’m excited to be back at Lee Pulliam Performance for a second season,” Pierce explained. “Coming back for another season will be a lot easier from a communication standpoint now that we have a season under our belts with one another. I spend a lot of time with Lee and all the guys at the shop and we all have high expectations for the 2020 racing season. We’re all working hard to be the best we can be.”
Pulliam says that Pierce’s passion and desire for the sport make it exciting to go racing with him.
“Having Brandon back behind the wheel again is something I’m really excited about,” Pulliam told RACE22. “Brandon has a true desire and passion to be one of the best in the sport. He’s at the shop every single week learning about the cars and trying to soak up information about them and that just shows how much he cares about racing.”
Pulliam says that unlike last season when he was at South Boston Speedway chasing wins while Pierce was racing CARS Tour, this season the whole Lee Pulliam Performance team will be together with a singular goal.
“We had some great runs last year but we also had a few tough weekends,” Pulliam continued. “This year we are focused on making every weekend a good one. I think we have made some changes in the offseason to help with that and one thing I feel like will make us stronger is having two cars competing on the tour. Last year I might have myself racing South Boston another car at Motor Mile and Brandon on the tour. This year our entire LPP team will be together and pulling in one direction to have the best two cars we can have at the track. It’s also allowed us to put more emphasis on the CARS tour races being that’s our main focus for the 2020 season.”
As previously announced, Pulliam will additionally have Corey Heim running every CARS Tour Late Model Stock Car race alongside Pierce. Pulliam feels as if the two will be able to share information and make Lee Pulliam Performance even stronger. He also hopes that having two talented drivers running against one another pushes both of them to perform.
“Another positive I see from it, both drivers want to be the best,” Pulliam added. “Which I hope adds a little drive for each of them to perform at a high level. Nothing would make me happier than both drivers going to victory lane and fighting for the championship. We have the drivers to do it, the people to do it, and the equipment to do it. Now we just have to make the most of every weekend and accomplish the goal, which is simple, win.”
Having Pulliam on the pit box calling the shots is a big part of why Pierce feels like this season will be even better.
“Having Lee on the box was pretty surreal at first,” Pierce stated. “Like I said in victory lane at Southern National, it’s not every day you get to have a four-time NASCAR National Champion on the radio coaching you. Obviously it has only made me better not only as a driver by him teaching me things but also understanding the cars better. Most importantly I really enjoy getting to work with him. We understand each other really well and in a short amount of time you wouldn’t think that we had only one season under our belts with the chemistry we have built.”
Pierce and Pulliam talk every day and work alongside one other a lot in the shop. In addition to the CARS Tour schedule, Pierce hopes to compete in several NASCAR Whelen All-American Series races including the Virginia Triple Crown. Pierce will kick off his season at the IceBreaker at Myrtle Beach Speedway in a couple of weeks and hopes to run as many as 16 races this season.
Pierce has his goals for 2020 set high beginning with finishing every race.
“Our goals are to win more races,” Pierce explained. “We won one in 2019 and we all definitely want to raise that number in 2020. The CARS Tour championship is a goal for sure but I want to continue to learn and get better as a driver and establish myself as a threat every time the trailer door drops. A big personal goal for me with all the bad luck we had in 2019 is going to be no DNF’s. I think if we can make that statistic stay at zero, everything else will take care of itself.”
With Pierce and Heim both behind the wheel of Lee Pulliam prepared cars in the CARS Tour the competition continues to ratchet up as we head toward the season opener at Southern National Motorsports Park on March 7th.
Cover photo by Jaden Austin.